Guild Wars 2: The sublime smugness of Trahearne

Is there a more smug face in all of existence than this one right here? You want to punch it so bad, even when he’s not saying anything.

When it comes to the vanilla personal story in Guild Wars 2, I find it best to grit one’s teeth, click “skip to end” any time it’s offered, and just get through it as quickly as possible. It wasn’t the most engrossing content when the game originally launched and hasn’t aged well, especially with those portrait dialogue screens. But for the sake of completion, I want to get it done.

I’m somewhere in the level 70 stretch, so I’m getting there, but it’s been a harder go than anticipated. The big problem is that there’s some issue with the game where it likes to randomly disconnect me while I’m in these instances, usually right at the end. It doesn’t do this in the open world, I’m not having internet connection issues, it’s something specific about the instances.

And you know how Guild Wars instances go — they’re not quick. There’s a lot of scripting and you could be in one for 20, 30 minutes at a time. Having one abruptly dump me out mere minutes from the end, only to find that I have to start all over again, is immensely frustrating. This has happened numerous times (again, ALWAYS in instances), and usually I’ll have to step away from the game for the night afterward because I don’t have it in me to run it a second time.

So I’ve gotten very paranoid about the instances crapping out on me, which means that I’ve been speeding through them and clicking past all dialogue as fast as possible in the hopes of hitting that finish line before the game notices that I’m there and tries to ruin my day.

Plus, it really didn’t help that in one instance, Trahearne simply stopped contributing altogether. He didn’t fight — I took this picture above to show how I’m fending off mighty undead while he’s thinking of his grocery shopping list for the week (probably all produce). Then, at some point, he wandered/glitched away entirely and I couldn’t finish the instance because he was supposed to trigger a script.

Nevertheless, I’m making progress and should be done with this stretch. I’m finding that making money is a relaxing side activity in Guild Wars 2, so it’s kind of enjoyable to be harvesting everything, breaking down everything, and then wrapping up a session by heading back to the trading post to see what kind of profit I can turn. I don’t have anything specific in mind to use this money on, but I find that in MMOs, it’s always better to have a fat wallet than a skinny one for when you need it.

I’ll also give Guild Wars 2 this: It’s absolutely the best MMO for jumping into really, really quickly and farting around for a few minutes. I can always just wander maps, explore a bit, kill a little, and log out, and even a spare five minutes seems better put to use in this game than others.

Guild Wars 2: Unearthing the Necromancer

Last night I made the decision to transfer my flag from the Engineer to the Necromancer in Guild Wars 2. It wasn’t a decision that I made lightly, since I’ve already poured a few weeks into this fledgling Engie, but I think it’s the right one for me. I wasn’t quite getting back into the groove that I once had with the Engineer, and when I gave the Necro a spin again, I was reminded of how much I really liked this class — and how much work I’ve already put into it. In fact, it’s probably my second most advanced character in terms of world exploration and story progression, so with the news of the upcoming expansion, it seemed like a good idea to work on fleshing that character out instead of continuing to build up a new one from scratch.

There were a few other factors in favor of this transfer. My Necro has my long-standing Guild Wars franchise name — Yeti Yesterday — that dates back to the original game (who was a Reaper there) and has a much better look, what with the light armor and all. I don’t know what it is with GW2 and medium armor, but is there a reason why it’s Trenchcoat City and nothing but? Light armor seems to have so much more variety in terms of visuals and much better designs. Yes, these are very froofy reasons, but still, such things matter.

Probably of more import is that I enjoy the variety of the Necro’s playstyle. First of all, pets. Total minion master here, even if it isn’t the most optimal or efficient. It’s just fun to run around like I do in WoW with a small horde of pets out ready to gang up on some unsuspecting centaur. And both dual daggers and the staff offer interesting combat, with the added option of going into death shroud for some nasty AoE attacks.

In terms of story progression, I left my Necro in a weird place. I never finished her personal story (I am around level 40 there), but have all but finished Season 2. So I’m going back to do the personal story, the last quest for Season 2, and then move on to the expansion. World exploration sits about 70% or so, which feels great.

I’m not really reading or tracking all of the expansion leaks that closely. I really like my current build and gear, so any new elite specializations are really going to have to wow me to earn a change.

I’m pretty excited about the switch and playing it going forward. Hopefully it’ll stick and I won’t have the buyer’s regret (so to speak). My only qualms with this character is that I have no idea what I was thinking with her looks, because she has this baby doll face that makes me go “ugh.” Might have to change that soon.

What I’m playing: World of Warcraft, LOTRO, Guild Wars 2

World of Warcraft

Time for a little update on my current evening rotation, which pretty much keeps cycling through three MMOs. Let’s start with WoW, because I absolutely loved the fact that there were swimming skeletal fish in Tirisfal Glades and wanted to use this pic for a header.

Anyway, I’m kind of stalled once again with my Death Knight. There are odds and ends to do, but now that I’ve got flying and four (!) legendary items, I feel a lot less motivated to clear out my quest log and run mythics. So instead I’ve found myself spending a little time here and there with my baby Undead Warlock, who hasn’t even hit double digits yet.

Let me tell you, those early levels are really rough. Not hard, combat-wise, but very slow. I didn’t even get my pet until level 5 or 6, and burning stuff down before you get your second DoT is just a pain. Suck it up, I tell myself. Deal with it and enjoy the Halloweeny scenery. I always did love this zone.

Since this is a Horde character, I have no characters to shuttle her money or bags, so it’s pretty much a start-from-scratch scenario. That’s fine for an alt, and there’s no rush to get to the cap.

Lord of the Rings Online

10th anniversary activities continue to consume me (and that’s fine, since I am not feeling particularly hurried to get back to the Wastes). I run the delivery quests every three days for the easy tokens and otherwise plink away at the scavenger hunts. I’ve done all of the Year One quests and two of the Year Two — but there’s a sticking point with that last one.

You see, there’s a quest to re-do a bunch of Volume 1 instances via reflecting pool, which wouldn’t be a problem except I haven’t done Volume 1 on this character at all. So I either give up on a meta-goal of doing ALL of the scavenger quests or I suck it up and do 26 books of an extremely long epic questline in a row. I’m not fully committed to the latter, but I am working on it when I have nothing else to do. I figure I have until mid-July, so it might happen. Might.

I do want to procure a few of the anniversary rewards, like the goat mount and some of the cosmetics. I am very, very happy with the scavenger hunt rewards so far and eager to see what future weeks hold. It’s been such a weird trip around the world, sometimes frustrating (I am not a fan of LOTRO’s stable master system and all of the hard-to-remember town names and where they connect). I’ve probably spent more mithril coins than I should have on quick ports, although I’ve also strategically set bind points at three spots around Middle-earth to get to regions when I need to.

Guild Wars 2

Still really enjoying the relaxed return to this game as I level up a new Engineer (now level 27 with no boosts). I have kind of a formula I’m following, which is to work on zone completion until I unlock the next personal story chapter, then stop to do that, then resume zone. I’m sticking with the human zones for the most part right now, although I did digress into Asura territory when I ran out of on-level human areas to do.

I was happy to see that Heart of Thorns dropped in price for good yesterday, so for $30 I felt that it was time to finally get it. If nothing else, it gets me the Scrapper elite specialization and gliding in the future, so I’m down for that. There’s such a mountain of content to climb to “catch up” with the current releases, and I have serious doubts that at this pace I’ll be ready for the expansion… whenever it gets here. I do have a level 80 boost now, but I’m really reluctant to use it. Don’t see the need, really; I’m enjoying the journey and am not going to skip ahead to the expansion story.

7 MMO cosmetic wardrobe systems, ranked

Here’s a little thought exercise I’ve been going through lately after having a discussion about cosmetic systems on the MOP podcast. We had been asked which was the best MMO wardrobe system, which I initially thought was an easy answer… and then, long after the podcast was done, started to revise my response. Ultimately, I asked myself how I would rank the systems present in the MMOs I’ve played the most in the last, oh, five years or so, and this is what I came up with going from best to worst.

WildStar

There’s a lot of factors that go into a truly great cosmetic wardrobe system, and believe it or not, WildStar checks off most of those boxes. It’s got great armor design, plenty of cosmetic pieces, a system that remembers loot you’ve collected, multiple outfit slots, two dye channels, fun dyes, and an accessible system (which is a change from launch, which required you to talk to a specific NPC). I adored being able to create and wear different outfits based on my mood, and I was often torn on which one I liked the best because they were all pretty awesome. WildStar usually get a lot of props for its housing, but I think its wardrobe deserves praise too.

Guild Wars 2

Initially I had put Guild Wars 2 at the top, but upon further reflection, I had to acknowledge that there are two big flaws with its wardrobe system: It makes you pay to change individual slots (via transmutation charges) and it doesn’t allow for multiple saved outfits. Apart from that, it’s pretty brilliant, with several dye channels, loads of colors, expressive pieces, and all the buttflaps you can stomach. Finding and obtaining skins is an enjoyable metagame for GW2, that’s for sure.

RIFT

On paper, RIFT has almost the full package. It remembers skins, has multiple outfit slots, is ridiculously easy to use, involves weird cosmetics, and so on. Other than the dye cash shop and the smaller color range, I’d say it was almost perfect… except that I just don’t like about 90% of RIFT’s armor designs. They’re not bad, per se, just not what I want to be trouncing around in, and there are strangely few store outfits that even slightly tempt me to purchase. Probably shouldn’t complain; better armor art and I might have gone broke.

The Secret World

TSW’s strength in cosmetics is that it’s a rare MMO that uses modern outfits rather than fantasy/sci-fi ones (for the most part) and is thus a fashion that is more identifiable to players. People in TSW just adore dressing up their characters, sometimes the more outrageous, the better. Wonderful array of choices are offset only by a lack of dyeable outfits (although some pieces come in multiple colors) and no multiple outfit saves. It’s nice that there is a convoluted fashion to even equip cosmetic weapons, but it really should’ve been more like the regular outfits in accessibility.

Lord of the Rings Online

LOTRO sits squat in the middle of this list with plenty of strengths but plenty of weaknesses as well. On the plus side, it’s another MMO with a community that does a lot of dressing up, and the game has done a lot to make this as robust as possible. Dyes, multiple outfits, varied designs, cosmetic weapons, etc. But on the minus side, the wardrobe itself is a little creaky and unfriendly, especially when compared to how many MMOs these days are saving EVERY new design whereas LOTRO has a hard limit. And you have to manage it by hand. Plus, the dyes aren’t that great, with only one color channel for (most) pieces and the dyeable area often being small.

World of Warcraft

For a major MMORPG, World of Warcraft suffers from a kind of lackluster system. Admittedly, the fact that it has one and it’s gradually improved is far better than launch, but seriously, transmog is pretty sad when you compare it to the field. No dyes, no multiple outfits (I’m not really that keen on just changing gear’s appearance rather than having a separate and toggleable cosmetic outfit), no way to do it on the fly, new gear overriding older transmog looks and requiring more money for new transmogs, and no quick check boxes to turn off helms and capes is all in dire need of addressing. To its credit, WoW has fabulous and fun armor design, which goes a long way to smoothing over the issues presented here.

Star Trek Online

Let’s throw in a couple of Cryptic efforts to be well-rounded. STO never really impressed me with its outfits. Sure, you could mix-and-match uniform elements, there were some (but not many) colors, and you had a small handful of outfit slots. But generally you aren’t collecting new looks while you play (most uniforms are simply bought through the store), and the interface is a little unwieldy. Sometimes it’s just more interesting to let your gear do the visuals for you, since they can be more detailed and futuristic.

Neverwinter

At the bottom of the barrel, Neverwinter does the absolute bare minimum to qualify as an MMO with a cosmetic system while making it as unfun as possible. Two cosmetic-only slots for specific items, no thank you. It’s a system that you learn about in the tutorial and then promptly forget going forward.

Now I know that there are plenty of other MMOs out there with great wardrobe systems, like EverQuest II, but I wanted to rank ones from games that I was most familiar.

Guild Wars 2: Captain Syp the Game Master

I consider 36 gold well-spent if it gives me the Captain N/NES light zapper as a pistol skin for life. Complete with retro-sounding zaps. It’s probably one of the best things I’ve ever purchased in a game, to tell the truth.

Long story short, I found my way back to Guild Wars 2 after a nearly two -year break, which apparently was long enough of a stretch for any burnout to blow away and leave the game fertile for rediscovery. Short story long, I was searching for some sort of casual online experience over the past week, and after going back and forth on some other titles, I found that Guild Wars 2 had exactly what I needed right now. It didn’t require an up-front cost, it was a perfect “jump in and do whatever” type of game, and it was different enough from my other MMOs to not be treading over the same territory.

Oh NPC, you’re about to have your heart broken by ArenaNet, because we ain’t never going back to Cantha. Too many players have heckled the studio at this point for the studio to acquiesce.

Without feeling pressured to do the latest content or — for whatever reason — get geared up for raids, I figured that I would just start all over from scratch. When I’m gone from a game this long, that’s what I typically (although not always) end up doing. I also figured that it’d be a good way to discover all of the changes that have happened without feeling overwhelmed.

Initially I rolled up a Thief (at the top of the post) because double pew-pewing with guns sounded fun. But I couldn’t fight my inner geek, which shouted loud and incessantly at me to go back to an Engineer. I thought for a few moments about picking up my old character, but I think I was done with the Asura. So I went with a fresh, level-one human instead.

I don’t really care what’s FOTM or optimal, all I want to do with this character is burn things with purifying fire from my flamethrower, which is still one of my favorite MMO weapons of all-time. Back-up is my dual pistol setup, both of which will lean on a condition damage build.

As my son asked when I dashed into a burning orphanage and started laying waste with my flamethrower, “Dad, why are you adding MORE fire to the place?” Because video game logic, son. You’ll understand one day.

So far it’s been a wonderfully relaxing experience. Without using a level boost, I don’t have to worry about facing all of the personal story all at once. Instead, I’m doing a little bit of that but mostly focused on world exploration and making money by gathering all I can. I have no idea how inflated the economy is right now, but I don’t want to get to 80 and have to worry about not affording my exotic gear.

As I said, it’s been a great time of small little rediscoveries. Still not a perfect game, especially in its larger storytelling department, but the environmental exploration and stories come off very well. The UI, combat, animations, and rewards feel right, and slowly going around a zone ticking off all of the boxes is satisfying in a “popping bubble wrap” fashion.

 

Will I ever go back to SWTOR, Guild Wars 2, WildStar, or FFXIV?

While I seem to have cultivated the impression that I play a thousand MMOs at once with my unlimited playtime, that’s all smoke and mirrors for the fact that I’ve been absolutely crunched for time this spring and have seen my play time cut down overall. Plus, I’ve been mostly focused on World of Warcraft and LOTRO, due to just being into these games right now and excited for the major upcoming patches.

There isn’t anything super-big on the immediate horizon (unfortunately) that has my excitement stirring. I keep tossing around Project Gorgon, Shroud of the Avatar, and Sea of Thieves as my next online adventures, but I’m still waiting on the first two to get to a more finished state, and who knows when SoT will come out.

So there is every chance in the world that some time this spring, my whims will turn back to old favorite MMOs, especially if I get into a content lull with one or both of my main games right now. The question that has been loosely bouncing around in my mind is, which game will I go back to? I’m quite disillusioned with RIFT right now, and there are several other fainter prospects (like DDO and Fallen Earth) that probably don’t stand a chance. Still, I think there are four titles that could be contenders as 2017 continues for a grand Syp return.

Star Wars: The Old Republic

While I did play a couple of sessions as of late, I still haven’t gotten back on board with this former favorite MMO. I would like to get through the story, to be sure, but it’s disheartening to hear about the current state of the endgame and game design as a whole, and if I’m going back to a game, I at least want the illusion that it’s going to be for a good long while instead of just to the end of a story and that’s it. I’d also have to pay for one month of subscription to unlock all of the expansions, which is a very minor concern.

Guild Wars 2

It’s been a long, long time since I played Guild Wars 2, and that might be a signal in and of itself that potential interest has been rejuvenated and I could enjoy the game once more “fresh.” There’s certainly a lot to do, although I think that if I went back, I really would want to reroll and bring up a new character from scratch to properly get into it. The announcement of a new expansion that sounds a lot more interesting than Heart of Thorns would go a long way to wooing me.

WildStar

Argh, you have no idea how much it hurts me that I’ve wandered away from this game. I still contend that it is an underrated piece of fine entertainment with so many good elements… but I cannot deny that I’m worried about the game’s future and hesitant to get back on board without seeing at least some minor sign of a renaissance. I do miss the housing, the races, the music, the visuals, and the design, so I could always find myself back on Nexus one day. Plus, I never did get to level that Esper!

Final Fantasy XIV

I’m iffy on this one. I definitely enjoyed my time with it for a few months a year ago, but it’s been a while and even back then I felt like I was playing the world’s longest game of catch-up. Good community. Some very annoying features and design (and the nodding, oh the nodding). There’s an expansion, and that’s always an event that draws attention… and that Red Mage looks pretty sweet. I’d have to really commit if I did return, subscribing up and giving it some of my time. I’m not saying no, I’m not saying yes, I’m just saying… check in with me in a month or so.

Guild Wars 2: I’m playing WHAT now?

me

One of my loose ambitions for gaming this December is to “check in” on MMOs that I used to play fairly regularly at one point but have been away from for a while now. I loaded up LOTRO for a hot 10 minutes of “let’s see if this still works… yup, it does,” and promised myself that I’d be back to work on the new epic story. Star Trek Online has gotten a few logins this week, thanks to a promotion that’s giving away free prize packs (I got a space shotgun!). But perhaps the most unexpected for me was getting back into Guild Wars 2.

I don’t know what prompted it. I have this inner process, this algorithm that determines whether or not I’ll play a new game or return to an old one. It’s pretty simple:

  1. Become aware of the title as something more than background noise. A big promotion, event, or release (say, expansion) can do this, or a bunch of other bloggers talking about it.
  2. Mentally mull it over for a while. Am I interested in playing it? If I’ve been in this game before, was I truly burned out on it? Is it too time-intensive to return? Would I need to pay money? Am I too hopelessly behind to ever catch up to the crowd?
  3. If I’m feeling interested or excited, I’ll load it up and take it for a test drive. See if the feeling of returning to that game is refreshing joy or a quick return of sour burnout.

I guess I was just thinking about how long it’s been since I’ve played Guild Wars 2 and curious if enough time has passed that my interest has rejuvenated. After all, it’s been since March 2015 since I was actively playing and blogging about those sessions. That’s a good long period for a game to go fallow. But there wasn’t anything pressing going on right now to pull me in other than just mild curiosity.

div

So why not? I don’t have Heart of Thorns — it came out after I had left the game and I don’t see the point in buying expansions (on sale or not) when I’m not playing — so I wasn’t returning to bust through the expansion. I don’t even think I finished up season 2. I was just coming back to see what’s what and feel out whether this was something I was interested in playing right now.

I think maybe. It’s amazing how fast the knowledge of this MMO rushed back at me after a mere 30 minutes or so of being back. How the economy worked (the updated trading screen is really nice to work with!). How the experience bar progresses with that little light show. How there are dynamic, moving events — funny enough, I had forgotten those and was taken aback when I encountered some during that first night. The NPC chatter. The general visual aesthetic (yay) and the two-people-talking cutscenes (boo). How amazing Divinity’s Reach looks. Even having been gone for a year and a half, I wasn’t really lost in the interface or with the changes.

I decided to clean house and start up a new character, because that’s part of the fun for me. A fresh start. I rolled up a Human Engineer to play as a rifle-toting gunslinger and used my zillion boosts lying around in the bank to bump her up to 80 right away. Actually, it took a couple of hours to manage my bank, transfer usable materials between characters, sort out all of the leveling up rewards, pick out a new outfit, and generally get situated so that I could start playing. As you can see in my character at the top, I’ve strongly angled for nice steampunk look for her.

burn

In the past I was always on a kick to do full zone completes — hearts, vistas, POIs, — but this time around, if I stay, I think I’ll just be following the storylines. Heaven knows that there’s enough for a new character to do: the personal story, Scarlet’s War, living world season 1, season 2, Heart of Thorns, and season 3. The latter two I can’t do unless I buy the expansion, but I’m holding off because (a) Christmas is sucking all of my allowance toward presents and (b) if I peter out halfway through, it would be a waste of money to buy an expansion I wouldn’t be using. Plus, maybe it’ll go on sale again at some point.

I played off and on during the weekend, mostly just gearing up my character (huzzah for having saved enough money and laurels to do that) and going through the first ten levels or so of the personal storyline. I’m such a tourist, too, because I’m taking screenshots left and right. Forgot how pretty this game is.

I’m in a play-and-see mode with this game right now. Maybe it’ll stick, maybe not. If I’m deeper into it by the end of the month, I’ll spring for Heart of Thorns and work it more heavily into my rotation. And hey, if there’s a new expansion sometime in 2017, that’d put me on track for being ready for it!